Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pregnant women at risk

Pregnancy, for most women, means planning for a safe and healthy baby, but in malaria-endemic regions, fear of mortality outweighs hope. At "least 125.2 million women" who are at risk of contracting malaria "become pregnant each year".

Malaria during pregnancy creates disaster, causing "miscarriages, preterm births," low-birth-rate, and death. "About 10,000 women and 200,000 babies die annually because of malaria" during pregnancy. "Most malaria deaths are caused by Plasmodium falciparum, which thrives in tropical and sub-tropical regions", but "the most widespread type of malaria is P. vivax malaria, which also occurs in temperate regions." Estimates on the burden of malaria were previously only available for Africa", but now include lesser-realized endemic regions.

"The researchers estimated the sizes of populations at risk of malaria in 2007 by combining maps of the global limits of P. vivax and P. falciparum transmission with data on population densities. They used data from various sources to calculate the annual number of pregnancies (the sum of live births, induced abortions, miscarriages and still births) in each country. They calculated the annual number of pregnancies at risk of malaria in each country by multiplying the number of pregnancies in the entire country by the fraction of the population living within the spatial limits of malaria transmission in that country."

"This study contributes to the global understanding of the risk of malaria in pregnancy. In 2007, 54.7 million pregnancies occurred in areas with stable P. falciparum malaria and a further 70.5 million in areas with exceptionally low malaria transmission or with P. vivax only. This marks the first time species specific risks have been estimated globally for malaria in pregnancy."

Dellicour S, Tatem AJ, Guerra CA, Snow RW, ter Kuile FO. Quantifying the Number of Pregnancies at Risk of Malaria in 2007: A Demographic Study. PLoS Medicine, 2010; 7 (1): e1000221 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000221

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